by Darren Diekman
Two dozen local people have gathered at St. Benedict Monastery since August 14 every other Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. to pray for their community and the world.
The bi-weekly gathering is called “Stations in the Grove” and continues on Sundays, September 11 and 25.
Central Minnesota Catholic Worker is organizing the event with members of St. Joseph’s Church. People associated with the two monastic communities of St. John’s and St. Benedict’s also participate.
Although the meeting has a Catholic signature, the organizers are intentionally inclusive.
“Everyone is welcome,” said Molly Weyrens, the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker’s lead event host, who is also a former staff member at St. Joseph’s Church.
Weyrens encourages participation from various age groups and from all faiths and perspectives. The organizers provide chairs for people who have difficulty standing.
The group numbers about two dozen and meets every two weeks. They pray at the western end of the monastery grounds, beyond the yellow barn, along a narrow gravel road lined with trees between two fields.
Signs starting at the entrance of the Saint-Benoît monastery direct the way to the meeting.
Each week, the group focuses on three questions. The first week was about Ukraine, climate change and gun violence. Other topics will include sex trafficking, mental health, civic unrest, racism and poverty.
Each station is unique and covers a single topic. Stations can include readings, music, posters and symbolic objects to illuminate and highlight the issue.
Trees arching above the road give a cathedral feel to the open space where the three stations of the week are placed about 100 feet apart. The distance is deliberate, so the walk between stations, accompanied by instrumental music, will invoke the movement of Christ between the Stations of the Cross and serve as a time for reflection.
The idea for the event arose out of concerns about dwindling church attendance and participation, Weyrens said. She said she believed attendance was down more than 20%.
“It actually started with a conversation with people from St. Joseph’s Church talking about the post-pandemic church and the struggle to re-engage people,” she said. “There’s a lot going on in our world right now, and there’s the question of how we can come together as a community and offer prayers and hopefully even create community among people.”
Anita Fischer of St. Joseph said the intention was also to generate hope in an atmosphere of growing pessimism.
“It’s a way of creating something positive rather than sitting around talking about what’s wrong,” Fischer said. “Action brings us faster to hope.”
Organizers expect this to be a first step toward continuing prayer and conversations that will lead to action.
“That could lead to more conversations about homelessness and how to help people be more aware of it,” Weyrens said, “to advocate for the involvement of our leaders as well as local people, to want to help to create living spaces.”
The last Stations in the Grove meeting this season will be on September 25.